MASSENA - Sitting in the back of an ambulance at the Malone Airport before being airlifted to Fletcher-Allen Medical Center, Steven M. Chambers told police he was attempting to buy drugs from the driver of a vehicle that would eventually drag him for two blocks and then leave the scene.
Describing the driver of that vehicle as a "long-time friend," Mr. Chambers, 23, of 544 Ruddy Road, Chase Mills told state police Investigator Gary L. Brown that he was attempting to buy some "oxy pills" from Natasha R. Coons, also 23, of Chase Mills.
According to court documents, Mr. Chambers claims to have given Charles D. Curtis, 34, of Potsdam $300 in exchange for some pills, at which point he says Mr. Curtis, who was a passenger in the vehicle, rolled up window and told Ms. Coons to leave, which she did, with Mr. Chambers' hand stuck in the window, as he was dragged down East Orvis Street for approximately two blocks from Parker Avenue to Talcott Street.
He was airlifted to the Fletcher-Allen Medical Center in Burlington, Vt., that night but released the next say.
As police began to interview witnesses and the other people involved in the case, they quickly learned that what they initially might be a drug deal gone bad, was actually an armed robbery attempt, where the "victims" were the ones who escaped unharmed.
Mr. Chambers was charged Tuesday with two counts of first-degree robbery and two counts of second-degree menacing. He was arraigned in village court before Judge Eric J. Gustafson and remanded to the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility on $2,500 cash or $5,000 bond.
St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney James L. Monroe had recommended bail be set at $2,000 cash with a possible release under the supervision of the probation department after he undergoes an alcohol and substance abuse evaluation.
He is scheduled to appear in court later this week for a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to hold the case over for grand jury action.
According to court documents, Ms. Coons traveled to Massena on Sept. 12 after receiving what she viewed to be subpar offers for her engagement ring from Argent Silver and Coin Shop, Potsdam, and Carbino's Jeweler's Ogdensburg.
Ms. Coons said she decided to attempt to sell the ring to Paquette Jewelry, Massena.
After picking up Mr. Curtis and driving to Massena, Ms. Coons told police she was unable to find the store.
"We could not find it so I called my friend Steven Chambers. Steven told me that he would show me where it was so I picked up him up on state Route 37 near the projects," she said.
In his statement to police, Mr. Curtis said Mr. Chambers showed them the way to store and sat with them in the car "for a minute" talking about the ring, at which point another vehicle entered the parking lot.
"All of a sudden this black pickup drove into the parking lot and kind of parked in front of me. Steve then got out and started talking to the guy in the truck," she said.
As the pair were about the exit the vehicle, Mr. Curtis told police that Mr. Chambers returned.
"We were about to get out of the car and all of a sudden Steven comes to my door and sticks a gun through the window and says 'Give me everything you got.'"
Ms. Coon's recollection of the events was slightly different.
"Steve then came back to my car on the passenger side and stuck a black pistol in the top part of the window that was rolled down. Steve then yelled 'Give me the f———' Chuck then yelled for me to go."
Mr. Curtis described for police an ensuing struggle that occurred as Ms. Coon's was fleeing the scene.
"My arm then flies up, and I pushed the gun towards the ceiling. Steven has his other arm in the window holding onto the window. The gun then dropped out of his hands onto my lap. I picked up the gun and started to hit Steven's arm to get him to let go of the window."
Mr. Curtis' efforts were apparently successful, as Mr. Chambers then fell to the ground.
Describing her recollection of the events, Ms. Coons said, "I was backed into the parking lot and I was able to drive out so I just put it in drive and hit the gas. I had to turn to get around the truck then I went through the intersection with Steve hanging in the window and fighting over the gun. I panicked and just kept driving. I was scared for my life and confused as to why Steven was doing this."
Linwood I. Nightengale of Massena was working at a home in the area when the incident unfolded.
He told police, "I happened to look up and saw a black car traveling east on East Orvis. The car was traveling, I think about 30 to 35 miles per hour. I noticed a male with both arms in the car trying to run along with the car. He would take some running steps and then he would be dragged a bit and then he would catch a few steps more."
Mr. Nightengale continued, "I saw him fall away from the car near Massena Travel and he tumbled a few times and skidded to a stop. He then stood up and walked a few circles and then went and sat on the curb."
Thomas C. Hazel, a member of the Massena Volunteer Rescue Squad, also witnessed the scene.
"It appeared that the subject had his head and shoulders in the passenger side of the vehicle and the rest of his body was hanging outside the vehicle and he was running next to the vehicle to keep from falling. As I drove past I could see the subject had lost his footing and was being dragged by the vehicle. I looked in my side view mirror and observed the subject come free from the vehicle and now he was tumbling down the roadway."
Mr. Hazel said he then stopped and offered assistance, alerting Central Dispatch of the accident.
After Mr. Chambers fell from the vehicle, Ms. Coons told police she thought she ran something over, thinking it was one of his shoes.
"I looked behind me and saw his shoe and then saw Steven get up. I kept driving and did not look back. I did not know if that truck was coming after me so I kept going. I was scared to death. The gun ended up in my car. Chuck told me to call the cops, but I was afraid Steven was going to get in trouble. I decided to drop the gun in the woods somewhere where I could shot the police at a later time if I had to."
She then took Mr. Curtis home and received a call from her mother telling her that she needed to come home because police were at their house.
Massena Village Police Chief Timmy J. Currier said police recovered the gun, later determined to be a pellet pistol found hidden in a wooded area off of the Highland Road. The did not find any drugs in the vehicle.
Village police said they were assisted by Massena-based state police in the initial stages of the investigation.